The incident has energized calls to defund the police department and invest more funds into community initiatives.
Trigger Warning: Police Brutality, Gun Violence
Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome from Salt Lake City was left seriously injured after a police officer shot him on Friday night, his mother Golda Barton stated. She called the police when he was experiencing a "mental breakdown" earlier in the day. As it was the mother's first day back at work, she was having trouble coping. Barton decided to call the police and request for a crisis intervention team to help her manage the situation and get her son necessary treatment. Instead, the police arrived and used physical violence, CNN reports.
A 13-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome was seriously injured after being shot by a police officer in Salt Lake City on Friday night, according to his mother, who said the teen experienced a "mental breakdown" earlier in the day. https://t.co/pxUS45ZX4C— CNN (@CNN) September 8, 2020
"I said, 'Look, he's unarmed. He doesn't have anything. He just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming,'" Barton explained in an interview. "He's a kid he's trying to get attention. He doesn't know how to regulate." Her son ran away when the police arrived, which is when she heard someone shout "get down on the ground" three times followed by numerous gunshots. The concerned mother has since asked why the officers chose to shoot him rather than using other methods to deescalate the situation. She asked, "Why didn't they tase him? Why didn't they shoot him with a rubber bullet? Why [didn't they] just tackle him?" She explained that he is a small child, stating, "You are big police officers with massive amounts of resources."
At a news conference on Saturday night, Salt Lake City Police Sergeant Keith Horrocks said police officers had been called to the neighborhood because the young boy was experiencing a "psychological episode." He added that Cameron had reportedly "made threats to some folks with the weapon." The Sergeant shared that one officer fired their weapon and struck the child when he ran away. He added that officers provided medical aid to the boy until medical personnel arrived and he was taken to the hospital. However, it is unclear at the moment if the 13-year-old did in fact have a weapon; Barton claimed he was unarmed. It is also unclear exactly what threats police were said to be responding to.
Cameron has since sustained multiple injuries which include damage to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, bladder, and colon. He is also suffering from nerve damage. An investigation into the incident is currently underway. A team consisting primarily of officers from the West Valley City Police Department will turn in information from the investigation to the district attorney's office, who will then conduct their own independent investigation. In addition to this, a civilian review board that investigates complaints with regard to police conduct is also involved. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement, "While the full details of this incident are yet to be released as an investigation takes place, I will say that I am thankful this young boy is alive and no one else was injured. No matter the circumstances, what happened on Friday night is a tragedy and I expect this investigation to be handled swiftly and transparently for the sake of everyone involved."
This incident has been exampled as another reason for cities across the United States to defund police departments and invest more in community initiatives, but it is unlikely that such actions will be taken.